Students at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research have been collaborating with Toyota for the past two years. The project, code named Deep Orange, immerses students into every aspect of automotive development — from market research and design studies to engineering design and manufacturing. The result is an innovative, flexible concept called uBox that is intended to appeal to the next generation of car buyers — Generation Z.
“Deep Orange gives students’ hands-on experience with the entire vehicle development process, from identifying the market opportunity through the vehicle build,” says Johnell Brooks, an associate professor in Clemson’s graduate engineering program. “It’s like automotive boot camp for the real world, and it wouldn’t happen without industry partners like Toyota.”
The Clemson students designed the car to appeal to young entrepreneurs who want a vehicle that can provide utility and recreation on the weekend but also offers office space and career oriented uses during the week.
The students wanted a bold, youthful look that matches their desire to stand out. The uBox has a muscular stance that makes the car look like it’s ready to spring forward even when it’s standing still. The versatile interior can be rearranged for various activities. It is suitable for operating a business or hauling bulky cargo. A low floor allows for reconfigurable, removable seats on sliding tracks that can be nested.
The vents, dashboard display bezels, and door trim are made with 3-D printing technology. A compact electric powertrain provides a fun driving experience. It is also a source of emission-free energy to power consumer electronics, power tools, or other devices. There are 110 volt outlets provided throughout the interior.
According to Electric Cars Report, Craig Payne, the executive in charge of the Deep Orange program for Toyota program, was impressed with how the students created a unique process that allows composite carbon fiber rails bonded with aluminum to support the curved glass roof. “The roof pultrusion was something unexpected and very interesting when they first started talking about the concept,” said Payne. “The fact that they were able to achieve an industry-first manufacturing technique as students speaks volumes for this program.”
“The collaboration with Toyota was extremely fruitful,” said Paul Venhovens, endowed chair for automotive systems integration at CU-ICAR. “The Toyota management team constantly challenged the students with justifying their design and engineering decisions based on brand essence, real-world customers and what the students believed the future would embrace. This experience can simply not be gained from a text book.”
No doubt the students learned far more from the collaboration then they would by listening to lectures and reading text books. The question is, if Toyota ever built a vehicle like the uBox, would anyone buy it? Please share your opinions about the uBox with us in the comments section.
Photo credit: Electric Cars Report